- Associated Press - Monday, April 18, 2011

SOUTH BEND, IND. (AP) - Notre Dame said Monday that football staff responsible for advising whether it was safe to practice outside used out-of-date weather information the day a student videographer fell to his death when the hydraulic lift he was on toppled over in high winds.

Declan Sullivan, a junior film student from Long Grove, Ill., was killed when the 40-foot lift fell over in a 53 mph wind gust on Oct. 27.

The investigation found that staff members likely depended on readings from the National Weather Service provided at 1:54 p.m. that day showing 23 mph winds in the area with 29 mph gusts. Although practice didn’t start until 3:45 p.m., the staff was unaware that at 2:54 p.m. the weather service reported winds of 29 mph with 38 mph gusts.

At the time of the accident at 4:54 p.m. the weather service was reporting 33 mph winds with 51 mph gusts.

John Affleck-Graves, the university executive vice president, was asked during a news conference why no one involved used common sense and ordered the lifts lowered because of the winds.

“The report highlights that as the primary weakness in our procedures,” Affleck-Graves said. “The lack of wind-measuring equipment on the field during the practice and the absence of any single individual with responsibility for monitoring the wind.”

The school released the details in a report summarizing its own investigation into the accident. Peter Likins, an engineer and former University of Arizona president who provided an independent review of the investigation, wrote that no one person was to blame for the accident.

“Though a needless loss of life cries out for one to shoulder blame, the facts here do not support any single individual finding of fault,” he wrote.

The Rev. John Jenkins, the university president, said he was ultimately responsible and that no one has been disciplined or punished for the accident.

“We did not find any individual who disregarded safety or was indifferent to safety. Consequently, there was not any individual discipline,” Jenkins said. “Our conclusion is that it’s a collective responsibility that must be deal with collectively as we move forward.”

Football coach Brian Kelly said the death of Sullivan has affected him.

“You’re never quite the same. But I think it has been articulated, I think we’re all collectively focused on making sure something like this never happens again,” he said.

The school noted that three people were most involved in advising Kelly on whether it was safe to practice outside: director of football operations Chad Klunder, then-head athletic trainer Jim Russ and Tim Collins, director of football video and film.

“Ultimately, no one _ not Collins, Klunder, nor Russ _ told Kelly or any coach that practice should be held indoors or that the lifts should not be used,” the report says.

Although Notre Dame staff members weren’t aware that the weather service was reporting higher wind speeds, Sullivan was. The report said Sullivan checked the weather before practice at weather.gov and saw a warning indicating the possibility of gusts up to 60 mph. Klunder, Collins and Russ did not recall seeing the wind warning.

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